Chloe Eudaly responds

Chloe Eudaly (Candidate for Portland Commissioner, Position 4) responded April 7, 2016:

(1) In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Portland?  

For the past 21 years I’ve owned and operated Reading Frenzy, a mission-driven bookshop devoted to independent media with a special focus on self-published work including zines, comics, and artists’ books and offering an open door policy for local publishers. We’ve hosted around 500 free literary and art events, including monthly art shows for most of the past two decades. In our new location we have a small, dedicated exhibit space — Minikin Gallery — where the majority of our shows are by women and minority artists. I’m a co-founder, former board member, and current advisory board member of the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC). I’ve also given numerous talks and workshops around Portland, including several Portland Public Schools, the Portland Zine Symposium, and the Multnomah County Library.

My past volunteer experience in Portland’s arts and culture community includes curating unrepresented artists for the Cascade Aids Project annual art auction, serving as marketing chair for the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, reviewing performances for PICA’s TBA press corps, and writing for a variety of local publications.

More recently I served as the Vice President of the Historic Mississippi Business Association and on the Mississippi Street Fair Committee, where I proposed and oversaw vetting vendors with a majority focus on diverse local businesses, artists, and makers in order to better reflect our business district, neighborhood, and city.

I’ve also had the chance to work with some of Portland’s major arts institutions such as the Portland Art Museum, where I conducted a live interview with comic artist Joe Sacco in conjuction with the Robert Crumb exhibit, and MOCC/PNCA where I recently curated a contemporary zine collection for the Alien She exhibit.

Portland’s arts and culture is also a vital part of my personal life. I strive to support local creative businesses, arts organizations, and artists. I can frequently be found out and about enjoying Portland’s cultural offerings whether it’s music, film, theater, visual art, readings, or lectures.

(2) Artists and arts organizations add measurable value to our region’s economy, our education system and our quality of life, and yet there are a number of pressing needs in our community that often compete for attention and investment.  What is Portland’s proper role in supporting arts and culture in the region?

Arts and culture is essential to our city. I support arts education and arts funding, but I think the more important question is why when Oregon’s economy is thriving do we still have so many pressing and competing needs? The short answer is that we are not requiring big business and top income earners to pay their fair share in taxes, we have stagnant wages, and at least a quarter of our residents have become cost-burdened and impoverished by unchecked rent increases. If we deal with some of these fundamental issues — increasing tax revenues, raising wages, and providing affordable housing — we will not only free up public dollars for funding the arts, but we will have healthier and more stable communities who can develop their own cultural plans, and residents will have discretionary income to spend on enjoying and supporting our arts community.

As a city we have a responsibility to provide arts access and opportunity to our whole community, to consider and include arts and culture needs in our longterm planning, to strive to increase public funding when it’s available, encourage private sector giving, support existing creative spaces and organizations, and of course, artists.

(3) The region’s affordability is a serious concern for all of us, including artists and arts-related businesses. What are your plans for making housing and creative spaces more affordable?

Nearly ten years ago when the initial conversations about the Arts Tax began, I publicly expressed my concerns with various people involved in the effort about rising rents for artists’ studios and commercial spaces. I suggested the city consider creating commercial land trusts in order to preserve affordable spaces. As we know, the city has largely failed to create long term affordable space for artists to work and live, let alone mitigate their displacement. This continues to be the case in the Inner SE Industrial Sanctuary, where upcoming zoning changes are going to bring huge rent increases and massive displacement to existing artists, organizations, and businesses. The IPRC (currently located at SE 10th & Division) is actively looking for a new space due to a 300% rent increase when their lease expires early next year.

We are in the midst of a housing crisis that is impacting at least a quarter of our residents. We need rent control to stem the tide of displacement, impoverishment, and homelessness being caused by unchecked rent increases. We need to end no cause evictions. And we need significant and sustained investment in affordable housing for our extremely low income residents. By addressing our 24,000 affordable unit shortfall we can move people out of their currently unaffordable housing and open up space for moderate earners. I’d also like the city to lift zoning restrictions that prevent property owners from turning single family residences into multi-family units, and allow tiny houses on wheels (currently illegal). These are small but meaningful measures that would increase density and could create more affordable dwellings, while helping to preserve some of our old homes and neighborhood character.

As far as commercial spaces, we have a few options — commercial land trusts could create permanent affordable studio/exhibit/performance spaces. There’s a development on SE Belmont called Zoomtopia which clusters office, studios, and light industrial spaces in one building with shared common areas and provided a buy in option for artists and nonprofits for long term stability (it has sold recently and the buy-in option may have been eliminated). I would like to see a complete inventory of buildings and lots owned by the city and county, consider the needs of the neighborhoods they’re in, and devote some of them to developing affordable work/live/creative commercial spaces.

(4) Are there other unmet needs when it comes to shaping Portland’s arts and culture policy for the future? If so, what steps would you take to help ensure those needs are met, and how should they be funded?

The most pivotal cultural experiences I had in my youth did not take place in or thanks to major arts institutions, they happened in Portland’s record shops, bookstores, galleries, cafes, and performance venues, often in improvised spaces, where free speech, creative expression, and community came before profit. The frequently unsung heroes behind these spaces are creative and visionary small business owners who have hugely contributed to our cultural landscape. These “third places” have been heavily impacted by the march of gentrification and displacement, and deserve our support, whether that’s through offering technical assistance, professional development, and project grants, taking steps to mitigate displacement and devastating rent increases, or providing long term affordable commercial space.

(5) The Arts Education & Access Fund, or arts tax, has delivered on its promise of providing arts specialists for all K-5 schools in Portland, but the fund hasn’t generated enough revenue to support as many grants for arts and culture organizations as envisioned. If elected, would you take any steps to modify the arts tax, improve administration of it, and/or fulfill the voters’ vision of supporting arts education and access through other means?

If I could wave a magic wand over The Arts Education & Access Fund I would at least double the income exemption, make the tax graduated based on income, and expand the arts education programming to include middle and high school students. However, any major changes to the tax would require that we take it back to the voters, and because arts education is absolutely essential I wouldn’t want to risk losing this funding until or unless we have a backup plan.

The city could do a better job letting residents know when and where to pay the Arts Tax — many people do not realize it’s a separate tax they need to pay — so I’d put some effort into educating the public. I do not support collections action — the city would see very little return on such a small amount due — and frankly the suggestion makes the arts community sound out of touch or indifferent to the very real and widespread housing crisis we’re in the midst of. With a quarter of our residents living in cost-burdened households it’s a wonder that we’ve seen the level of compliance we do have.

But let’s think bigger — the arts tax was a creative stop gap measure to make up for lack of funding due in part to the “tax revolt” of the 90s and the fact that we are not making big business or high income earners pay their fair share of taxes in Oregon. Oregon was declared to have the healthiest economy in the country by a recent Bloomberg Study, yet we are 41st in education and Portland has to pass the hat, so to speak, to fund arts programming in our schools. I support A Better Oregon — an initiative to raise the minimum corporate tax (currently $150) on companies doing 25M+ in sales in Oregon. The money raised will go to early education, K-12 education, healthcare, and senior services.

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